We are half way through 2015 and the photo and video sharing network Instagram has shown aggressiveness in making money. The Facebook-owned network, which has more than 300 million people around the world who use the it monthly, has rolled out several major updates to keep the advertisers happy.
Worth more than $35 billion, Instagram started advertising from late 2013 with Sponsored Posts. Late last year the network rolled out the video ads after rigorous testing and hands-on work with brands.
This year Instagram has had four major roll outs that has kept us hooked to the platform. These are discussed below:
1. Carousel ads
In the month of March, Instagram, for the first time, allowed the possibility of opening up URLs on its network with the launch of carousel ads. Instagram started showing clickable links with the carousel ads that tell a story by letting you swipe through four branded images in sequence.
The format is still in flux; Instagram says it will try a variety of styles in coming weeks before settling on one. The new “Learn More” button that houses these links will open a URL in an internal browser within Instagram that allows you to quickly jump back to the feed with a tap of the top bar.
According to Instagram, the carousel ads bring the potential of multi-page print campaigns to mobile phones – with the added benefit of taking people to a website to learn more. For instance, a non-profit organization telling its story about how it is building schools with the use of carousel ads on Instagram, like Pencils Of Promise is doing as shown in the video below.
Introduced to a limited set of brands, the carousel ads are being sold on a cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) basis. For now, these ads will just include photos, but Instagram is considering whether to allow videos in carousels too.
Early last month Instagram rolled out the carousel ads internationally. The company had announced that starting from 1st of June the feature will be made available in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, France and Brazil.
2. Buy button
The second major push Instagram did in this space was earlier in this month by providing action-oriented advertisement to marketers.
The big change on the platform came in the form of “action-oriented” buttons that appear below an image. These buttons could be an option to buy a product, install an app or sign up for a service. These new buttons were built upon the multi-photo carousel ads that Instagram unveiled earlier this year.
While these are action oriented features, the workout happens in the app itself. For example if you want to purchase a product, on click a new mini browser would open up in the app to complete your action, so once you’re done buying or downloading you’ll be returned to Instagram.
Providing the ability to shop on Instagram isn’t a surprising move since over the time it had been working closely with a few influential brands to make shopping a one-click experience on its platform. For instance, Banana Republic was one of the retailer who could link to product pages from their Instagram ads.
3. Interest targeting
Later from this year advertisers will have the ability to connect businesses to the right people through expanded targeting options with the help of Facebook too. “Working with Facebook, we will enable advertisers to reach people on Instagram based on demographics and interests, as well as information businesses have about their own customers. We will also improve the feedback mechanisms within Instagram to give people greater control and improve the relevance of the ads they see.”
This is similar to Facebook’s Custom Audiences ads, that can be targeted to people corresponding with a list of email address provided by the business.
4. Availability of Instagram API
Instagram is also opening up its advertisement for all businesses large and small. Instagram is working to make its advertising available through Instagram Ads API and integrating with Facebook ad buying interfaces over the coming months.
This way, heavy advertisers can programatically control tons of ad variants and targeting options to optimize for what works best, rather than having to manually manage them. To begin with the Instagram Ads API would be opened up for a selected group of Facebook Marketing Partners and agencies, and finally expand globally throughout the year.